Monday, 7 December 2009

Han Bennink - 'Nerve Beats' (Atavistic)

Bennink, a force, a gust of wind, a brutal gale. This isn't a solo drums album, but a solo Han Bennink piece. The man can make sound from anything -- who can't? -- but it's really about what's behind it. There's a momentum that pulses through the three tracks, beginning with a snare drum rattle and soon moving to concrète-addled collages, clarinet and trombone honking, and deep cavernous roars. The title is perfect cause it's all nerves; the music of 'too much coffee', not a drug we usually associate with the Dutch. Bennink's twitchy nervousness has a great, fierce energy behind it all and there's nothing annoying about his palpitations. This was recorded for Radio Bremen in 1973, the same radio station the produced that incredibly Henry Cow session ;; it musta been some station! I'm imagining a squat, Teutonic version of myself, tuning in to Nerve Beats live over the airwaves in '73 while drinking a Haake Beck (just after watching the Werder match, y'know). Records like Nerve Beats (which, by inclusion on Atavistic's Unheard Music Series was in fact unheard until this CD issue) make such a case for improvised music as a whole. There is no genre that can even remotely describe this music - part jazz part industrial part surrealist - and it's all made by one man, showing off his vast technical talent and his flamboyant sense of humour, which was quite evident when I saw him bashing away with the Willem Breuker Kollektief (or was it ICP?) 30 years after this was recorded. There are certainly plenty of drums here - beats galore, sturm und drang or whatever its called, but in the slightly different Nederlands tongue. This is a disc of many tongues; competing languages all propelled through one person; it's as uniquely personal a "solo" album as many of the more traditional entries in the genre (Dylan, Lennon, y'know). That this man still has a beating heart in 2009 is a testament to the eternal ur-pulse you can feel in this recording.

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